Bites: A Week of Women in Food, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, Mexico City-inspired lunch at Doña Tomás

Nine women La Cocina alumni will participate in A Week of Women in Food. Photo: La Cocina

FEMALE-FRONTED DINNERS International Women’s Day is this Thursday, March 8, but culinary incubator La Cocina isn’t keeping the festivities limited to one day — it’s celebrating all week, with food, naturally. La Cocina works to open doors for low-income women and immigrant entrepreneurs with dreams of entering the food industry, and for its seven-day dining series, A Week of Women in Food, it’s putting on dining events across the Bay Area with women food and drink makers who started off as La Cocina chefs. The week started on Monday in San Francisco, but several of the remaining dinners take place in the East Bay.

Tonight (March 6), Reem Assil is hosting a dinner at Reem’s California with Preeti Mistry, featuring cocktails from Jessica Moncada of yet-to-open Proof bottle shop, beer from Calicraft Brewing Company and wine pairings by Anne Fogerty and Camille Gaio of Belharra Wines. On Thursday, there’ll be two East Bay/SF swap events, with Aileen Suzara of San Francisco’s Sariwa at A16 Rockridge and Emeryville newcomer Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement at A16 SF. Saturday’s event starts in San Francisco at La Cocina, where guests will board a bus (with cocktails by St. George Spirits) heading for Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas in Hayward. There, they’ll enjoy a meal prepared by chef Alicia Villanueva and Gabriela Cámara of Cala Restaurant. And on Sunday, chef Nite Yun of Nyum Bai will team up with Melissa Chou of Mister Jiu’s and Angel Davis of Fig & Thistle. See the whole line-up of A Week of Women in Food and buy tickets here.

Fried chicken and other southern fare from Minnie’s Soul Food Movement. Photo: Minnie’s Soul Food Movement/Facebook

EAST BAY SOUL MOVEMENT As mentioned above, La Cocina alumna Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement is setting up shop in Emeryville. What started as a catering business, food truck and pop-up has now found a home — albeit probably a temporary one — in the Emeryville Public Market. According to the East Bay Express, Minnie Bell chef-owner Fernay McPherson, a San Francisco native, will take over the turnkey pop-up kiosk recently vacated by Nyum Bai on March 15. McPherson’s specialty is rosemary fried chicken, brined in hot sauce and buttermilk, which she’ll offer up with traditional Southern sides, like cornbread and mac ‘n’ cheese. McPherson hopes to one day open a restaurant in the Fillmore District, where she grew up, but until then, the East Bay will get to enjoy the Soul Movement on this side of the bay while it lasts. Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement will be at the Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

GO OESTE Over in Old Oakland new Southern-Latino café-bar-restaurant Oeste has started serving brunch on Sundays. Chef Peter Jackson is cooking up dishes like shrimp and grits, made with wild-caught Georgia shrimp and house-cured bacon; sweet potato pancakes topped with toasted pecan butter and vanilla-molasses syrup and biscuits and gravy with housemade pork sausage, cream biscuits and chicory red-eye gravy. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The restaurant hopes to add brunch service on Saturdays, starting in April. Oeste, 722 Clay St. (between 7th and 8th), Oakland

The fresh-squeezed limeade with butterfly pea at Funky Elephant in West Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

FLOWER POWER Last year’s unicorn food trend is (hopefully) over, but a colorful natural food coloring is gaining popularity, so much so that even Starbucks is jumping on the game. Butterfly pea flower — a dried purple flower commonly used as a food coloring in Thailand and Southeast Asia, gives drinks a bright fuschia ombre effect and rice a more subdued Smurfy blue hue. In the East Bay, there are a few spots that use butterfly pea flowers. New Thai spot Funky Elephant (1313 Ninth St., Berkeley) makes a fresh-squeezed limeade topped with a layer of butterfly pea syrup that’s almost too pretty drink. It’s extremely sweet, so let the ice melt a bit before taking a few sips. At Drip Line (1940 Union St., Oakland), chef Nora Dunning colors the jasmine rice with butterfly pea flowers for her Nasi Lemak Kerabu, available on her new Friday night dinner menu. A few boba shops, like TeaOne and ShareTea (various locations) offers “Stardust” drinks, colored with butterfly pea flower. And over in Oakland Chinatown, Alice Street Bakery Café (251 10th St., Oakland) offers drinks with butterfly pea flower, although when we called, we were told it’s mostly a summertime offering that will likely be on the menu starting in April or May. Until then, if you have a hankering to try it, call the café a day in advance to make a request.

Dona Savitsky ate her way through Mexico City and will relive her favorite food memories through a limited-time lunch menu at Doña Tomás. Photo taken in Mexico City by Dona Savitsky

¿QUÉ HAY DE ALMUERZO? Dona Savitsky, owner of Doña Tomás in Temescal came back from a vacation in Mexico City and decided to bring a taste of what she ate on her trip back with her to Oakland. For one week only, the lunchtime a la carte menu at Doña Tomás will offer six specials inspired by the fare at small mom-and-pop spots and food carts that Savitsky especially loves in Mexico City. The following items will be available from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., March 13-16 and will include the following: Al Pastor and grilled pineapple taco with fried onions and avocado salsa, rajas en crema quesadilla with pico de gallo, fried rock shrimp taco with chipotle aioli and purple cabbage, tuna ceviche tostada with avocado, cucumber and aioli, churros with Mexican chocolate and cucumber-pineapple agua fresca. Doña Tomás, 5004 Telegraph Ave. (between 49th and 51st), Oakland

ISLAND GETAWAY On March 17, Slow Food South Bay is making a food-and-sustainability focused outing to Alameda and hopes you’ll join them. “Locavore Landmarks of Alameda” will visit and tour three spots on the island, where attendees will learn more about each business. The day starts at Ploughshares Nursery, a retail plant nursery which trains and employs residents of Alameda Point Collaborative housing community, then moves on to St. George Spirits for tastings of the distiller’s craft spirits before ending the day with locally sourced Italian food at Trabocco. Tickets are $30 for the tour (price includes tastings at St. George Spirits, but do not include the price of lunch at Trabocco).